Two Down, One To Go As Baseball Writers Say Bye Bye To Bonds and Clemens.
David Ortiz only player elected to the 2023 Hall of Fame despite positive PED test.
What stinks about writing this column for me is that I like David Ortiz. I mean, really, he’s funny, outgoing, great with fans, great with teammates, great with opponents and a great hitter. He was, by all accounts, a credit to the game of baseball. But the column won’t all be just about him making the Hall of Fame and how he had . It will also be about the two chuckleheads who cheated the game, their opponents, and the fans on their way to gaudy numbers and criminal investigations. Those two, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens both received about two-thirds of the votes required, but fell short of the three-fourths required. They are now off the Hall of Fame ballot just in time as the Baseball Writers Association of America voters have continued to become younger and more lenient when it comes to punishing those who stained the game. And this column will also include some mention of serial crap sandwich Alex Rodriguez and his candidacy. Of course, no discussion of the subject would be complete without some discussion of the fact that Ortiz tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2003.
Let’s start with the greatness that was Ortiz and that was his ability to carry a team in the playoffs. In 2004, Boston went down 3-0 to the Yankees in the ALCS, but it wasn’t Ortiz’ fault. He went 6-for12 in the first three games and then 5-for-11 in the first games of the comeback. He would go on to be named most valuable player. He would win the same award in the 2013 World Series against the Cardinals when he had 11 hits in 16 at-bats and walked 8 times (1.948 OPS). Then there was the 2007 American League Division Series against the Angels when he went 5-for-7 with 6 walks (2.418 OPS!). He hit better than .300 nine times in 18 postseason series. Of course, there were series when he wasn’t so hot (.095 vs Oakland in 2003 and .083 vs the Angels in the 2009 ALDS), but his dominant performances far outweigh those. The 2004 comeback alone would be enough to put him in the Hall in some way shape or form.
Overall, he was much the same player as in the regular season, with stretches of total dominance. The man could hit (.286 career) and hit with power (541 home runs). He could also work a count. With 1.33 strikeouts for every walk, he was able to post an on-base percentage about 100 (94) points higher than his career batting average (.286). Add 632 doubles to his home run total and you have an on-base plus slugging percentage of .931. Ridiculously, he led the American League in OPS, slugging, runs batted-in and doubles in his final season. He easily could have played another two or three years and padded his stats. Though he resembled a man trying to run with an anvil strapped to each foot, his defensive numbers aren’t bad (.990 fielding percentage.)
The elephant in the room, of course, is the Mitchell Report on cheating in baseball and Ortiz’ inclusion in it. He was named as one of the players to fail a test in 2003. The report did not come out until 2007, which begs the question if the 2004-07 seasons were drug-fueled as he hit .304 with 177 home runs and 541 RBIs. He has always acknowledged the positive test, but has also said he was never told what triggered the positive result. Only he knows if he is telling the truth. After the report came out, his production suffered greatly the following two years, which some have said is proof he had changed something. However, an equally-likely explanation is the torn wrist tendon he suffered before the 2008 campaign (and then suffered again in 2014). Many have come out in support of Ortiz, saying he cannot be linked to any wrongdoing and that some of the positive tests from 2003 turned out to be false positives.
So, the jury is decidedly out when it comes to Ortiz and PEDs. Besides the test, there is zero evidence he took anything. In the case of Bonds and Clemens, that is not the case. Bonds had the “cream” and the “clear” which were part of the BALCO regimen for him as well as several other athletes including Gary Sheffield, Jason Giambi, and sprinter Tim Montgomery. It’s also not the case for Clemens, who went from aging, declining star to rejuvenated perennial Cy Young Award winner. His trial for perjury before Congress resulted in much damning testimony.
And then there’s Rafael Palmeiro (3,020 hits, 569 homers), Manny Ramirez and Sammy Sosa (both tested positive for substances or masking agents multiple times) and A-fraud, Alex Rodriguez. All are in the upper echelons of baseball’s most hallowed numbers and all have been disgraced. All have disappeared, with the exception of Rodriguez who somehow charmed Jennifer Lopez into dating him and TV execs into giving him a job. But no matter how high-profile he now is, it will still be a struggle for him to do what Bonds, Clemens, Ramirez and the others could not. His attacks on Major League Baseball and his repeated violations of its drug policy give him no moral grand to stand on if he were to make his case he should be in the Hall.
The problem is, for those of with ideals and morals still held in high regard, the next generation of sports writers is beginning to replace the old guard, which is retiring. And as we all know, liberal, hippy kids are all about smoking weed and letting cheaters prosper while the old guard wants Tim Lincecum off his damn lawn and Sammy Sosa to stop doing to himself whatever it is that Sammy Sosa is doing to himself.
It’s unknown how many of the new “kids” will ultimately cave to the pressure of the “Everybody was doing it” argument or “he would have got in anyway” or other such tripe. About one-third of the voters gave a nod to A-Rod (135 votes) this time. Only time will tell if Rodriguez is able to sway enough writers by the time his last year comes up in 2032…or if enough of them are able to sway the others into joining the “It was an era, man” crowd. Hopefully, those who played the game clean will continue to make their voices heard, to remind the new guard that just because some players were doing it doesn’t make it right. All we really have in sports is competition. This group of selfish jack wagons creating an unlevel playing field. Period. End of story.
In the meantime, the arguments will most likely center on infielder Scott Rolen and Todd Helton and others (Here’s the 2020 look at page two of the nominees then). Outfielder Carlos Beltran (cheater of a different type) will be on the ballot next year, as will pitchers Matt Cain, Francisco (K-Rod) Rodriguez and Jonathan Papelbon. Rolen and Helton will likely garner the most attention. But, let’s not forget the slimy, dishonest, cheating mudwhump that is A-Rod and what he did to opposing teams during his time on the field. He -as a super-talented shortstop with tons of skill and lots of pharmaceutical assistance- cheated them. He cheated the game. He cheated you of the ability to witness a fair fight.
Hopefully, enough writers hang on to the ideals of fairness to keep him from being recognized as an all-time great.